Vignette #30 “The Racetrack”

Before I can help it my fingers are flying across the keys, and I’m helpless to stop it. The thoughts are racing by, each one trying to overcome the others. Many succeed in flying straight ahead to the finish line, but some are left far enough behind to get trampled and lost in the mess on the track of my mind. My fingers are helpless in the competition. They just keep tapping and pressing and moving to the instructions they’re given, like announcers trying to keep the rest of the audience informed. The racing thoughts that get lost come out in bits of shattered fragments on the rapidly filling once blank page. A random horseshoe in the middle of a sentence that otherwise would have made perfect sense. A lost stirrup, ripped from the saddle lying by itself at the end of a paragraph, or a scrap of paper with the headline ripped from the top to be hidden somewhere else in the dirt of the track.

It takes a moment, after the burst, before I realize the race has ended. The winners are clear on the page. I need a deep breath because it’s over, and even though I haven’t even left my seat I am exhausted. I’m not part of the competition anymore, I’m a bystander, a visitor looking on from the stands. As I go through the sentences it is just like watching a recap on a screen. By the time I reach the last word, my mind and fingers in tandem have had to edit and cut. Getting rid of the things that don’t make sense, disregarding the racers that came in last, and painting the victorious in the appropriate light for the prize winning picture.

But this is just the derby, wait till the stakes get higher.

Photo by Jeff Griffith on Unsplash

©2020 Jai Lynn

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“Fairytale”

Once upon a time…
is how I shall begin.
A castle wrought in ivory
and knights dressed in tin.

A jovial king
made of poultry
and sweet pie.
A dour queen
subdued to never question
how or why?

Money and power
the kingdom
had renowned.
With two princes to boot
hunting in the woods
to be found.

The older
of the two
was strong and fit
but the younger
was smarter and
drowning in wit.

One day the older got an idea
to take his little brother
out to hunt deer
only his motives
in the situation
were very unclear.

As usual they rode together
on black horses
of noble breed
until the older deserted
the younger, losing him
in the woods was the deed.

The younger called out
and realized too late
that he was alone,
left to die
with his whereabouts
unknown.

Days passed
into weeks
and the king and queen
mourned their loss
of the little prince
gone and unseen.

The prince
was never to return
do you see?
For in those
very woods
he built his own country.

He used his head
to find shelter
and food,
he made friends
with the foxes
wild and shrewd.

He survived
and grew older
in a castle of trees.
A kingdom of nature
that stretched all
the way to the seas.

Did you think this was
a story of revenge
and deceit?
Sometimes the best comeback
is living well
and not falling to defeat.

The younger prince knew
what his brother
had done,
so he did one better
and lived a happy life
under the sun.

Living well
is retribution
kept hush
because swords are flashier,
as is dying
in the dust.

But don’t think
the older prince
still got to be.
His kingdom fell to ruin
while the younger’s
is still free.

As this is a fairytale
and I the crafter
all that’s left to say is
that prince lived happily ever after.

Photo by Scott Walsh on Unsplash

©2020 Jai Lynn

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Living Life #23 “Smile”

I have only seen her frown once.

Granted, I have never seen her outside of work but when you work as many hours as I do with the same people day after day… you tend to notice things.

In the early morning, when the sky is still painted night and the air chilled with dew, whoever she greets on her way in she’ll flash a smile. It doesn’t matter if her eyelids are still a little droopy with sleep, or her sweet voice a little heavier as if coated in honey. No matter what, you’ll still see that smile.

At our weekly meeting we learn about new procedures, rules, or programs we need to know how to run. If she doesn’t understand she’ll raise her hand and ask her questions, always with a coy quirk in her lip. As if in apology for speaking, when in reality she is voicing the question in all our minds.

Casual meetings in the hallway with everyone’s coming and goings, when if you’re lucky enough to meet her eyes, there that grin will be. It doesn’t matter that she already flashed it at you an hour ago when you walked in together.

Disgruntled customers are frequent and normal. I once watched a man spit at her, saliva getting stuck to her blouse and she didn’t even balk. That smile came to her defense and it calmed him, and the rest of us, down from coming to her aid.

When Tracy accidentally dropped a cup of coffee and it splashed onto her shirt.

When her computer broke and she had to stay late to finish her assignment.

When it started to pour just as she was about to leave the other day.

Everywhere she goes, she smiles. I don’t understand. Or at least I didn’t, until the day I saw that frown.

I was coming around the corner when I spotted her at the window. It was the only time I ever saw her eyes look so far away. Her arms were crossed tightly across her chest, and her hands were clenched around her elbows. I realized in that moment that she thought she was alone. I would have left it that way too… if not for the frown marring her face.

For someone who had always seemed so happy, and brought joy to everyone else… I wondered at the depth of sadness she must have kept bottled up inside. There was a lifetime of disappointment and worry in that upside down turn of her mouth.

I didn’t mean to stare… but that’s how she caught me. Her expression careened from sadness to surprise to a calm expression with her lips set into a straight line. I didn’t even know what to say, I was caught just as off guard as she was.

Are you okay? came to the tip of my tongue but my words weren’t working. She inclined her head at me then and passed by. That was the only time she didn’t smile, at least to me.

I wonder, sometimes, if she is as aware as I am of the powerful effect a smile, or lack there one, can have… because after I didn’t see one the rest of my day was wrecked.

Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Living Life #22 “Mirror”

The shards were scattered all over the floor.

Each edge was jagged, and unlike any of the others. Of course they would all be different. They all came from different experiences.

The shard closest was derived from the boy who pushed her into the sandbox when she was five, just because she had been born a girl and for no other reason more.

The one to the right was one of the bigger ones. It was from when she was seven and her father had left. She thought it had been her fault. It was not her fault.

All the way to the left was a tiny chip, nearly in the shape of a heart. Nearly. It was from the eighth grade when the boy she liked had tried to set her up with his best friend.

Then all the way in the back, that piece with the most uneven sides… the piece with the sharpest angles…. that was the one from her first job out of school when her boss had tried to sand her down. That boss hadn’t liked the bumps on her skin, the angle of her eyes, or the color of her hair. That boss had balked at the smile she wore to work every day no matter how many backhanded compliments and disguised insults were said to her face. That was the girl’s favorite piece. That was the piece that cut deepest from her skin and made her never look back or question who she was ever again.

All of these shards on the floor were an important piece of her soul. So the image left standing in the mirror, after it was fixed once again, was a smarter and stronger girl.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Living Life #19 “Eggnog”

(a collection of independent vignettes)

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

She could see the bottom of the glass once again. Twirling it in her hand, the bare remnants of froth shifted from one side to the other. It looked like the melted snow outside, when in reality it was the dregs of a third glass of eggnog.

“Poor me.” she laughed. Unsteady and a little sick, the woman rose from the armchair by the dying fire. Its crackling was almost silent since it was now midnight. First a chair and then the table got in her path but through determination and reckless luck she made her way back to the counter where the punch bowl was waiting.

One ladle, two ladles, and another half. Now her glass was full once again.

Even though she was not.

“Merry Christmas to me.” she breathed, and downed the fourth glass. Maybe this time it would fill her up.

Living Life # 18 “Decorating The Tree”

( a collection of independent vignettes)

The tree was taller than she was. Green as the forest in summer beyond her backyard and as prickly as the thorns on the dead bouquet in the vase on the counter. Tooth and nail it dragged through the back door leaving a trail of needles like gingerbread cookie crumbs right to the far corner of the living room. It did not come easy, but she didn’t back down. Not even as she had to hoist it into the stand with only minimal help from the wall.

A stepladder was necessary for the lights, and even though there was no one there to help she took her time. The stool danced around the wood floor and the lights were placed string by string until it was her feet waltzing around the ground instead. The cord was gently plugged in and then the house seemed a little brighter, the fir now lit up like a star. The tree warmed up to her a bit then. But only just a bit.

The red beads were next, and then the gold tinsel. The tree certainly wasn’t going to bend for her but she didn’t need it too. She rose to meet it again and again, and swayed around and around. The fire in the background crackled and snarled but it was only empty threats. The light emanating from the small space was too golden and too warming to be anything but a sarcastic friend. Being inside, the tree realized, was a lot different than being outside. A little more snug and a little less lonely.

It paid no mind to the silver bells she planted along its branches, and the red ornaments felt as light as air as if they were barely there. The rest that were piled on were mismatched and worn. A little blue sled with the year 1982 scribbled on the bottom, a fading snowman with two buttons missing, eight bronze deer then four gold ones and a rocking horse no bigger than her palm. Before long all the spaces were filled and instead of feeling weighted and tired the tree noticed the perk to its branches in the mirror across the room. Maybe it should have been a little nicer to her on the way in. She had plucked it out of the solitude of the harsh winter wind, gifted it a steady stream of water and shelter, then given it decorations to cloth and adorn it. The tree liked her a bit more than it had before, making its emotions swell now to twice what they had been.

A drop of sweat like a melted snowflake slid down her temple, and the tree could see she was tired. She absently moved to put her hand down on the end table nearby and the tree wanted to warn her but it had no mouth to speak.

When the glass shattered, it was loud. The wit of the fire was drowned, and the glow of white lights on the tree’s branches left her eyes. Quietly, the young woman bent down and as she kneeled careful of the broken bits, she looked much smaller than she had when she originally hauled the tree in. More like a girl, left alone in a house, with a few modest lights and threadbare ornaments that really didn’t matter much if one thought about it, unless they were reflected in her eyes.

The picture was face up on the floor, but in the shadow of where the lights couldn’t reach. Piece by piece and sliver by sliver she picked the edges up, cupping her hand to her chest. The picture, still in the frame, was last. Another tiny snowflake ran down her cheek, but the tree knew there were was no sky above their heads. She took a deep breath and in the next moment she rose and walked away. A minute passed, and then two. The tree wondered if maybe it should have at least tried to warn her, though it had no means to speak words. But then, she came back. And she wasn’t alone.

There was petite angel cupped in her hands where the glass had just been.

The stool made its return, and with the fire cackling quietly in the background, she rose one step then another. Even then though she could barely reach the top. An inch more of height and everything would have been okay. She didn’t have that inch though, so the tree gave her the inch instead.

With all its might it buckled its trunk and the young woman stretched her toes until finally then the angel was set on top. Blonde hair, white gown, a happy mouth and golden wings graced the room.

The young woman stepped down from the stool, and that’s when tree liked her most of all with the lights in her eyes, the fir needles in her hair and the angel in her smile.

Living Life # 16 “Spelled.”

(a collection of independent vignettes)

Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

Cassie spread the the pages of the tome out before her. It was easier to read the handwritten scribbles and see the crawling illustrations this way. They scattered across the page and in the dusk light, almost seemed to be moving with a word jumping a few lines here or the picture of the lemon going fuzzy and then rapidly going into focus again. After she lit the three candles, it got better. The dust was a different issue.

The book had not been touched in over twenty five years, Cassie was sure. It had been her grandmother’s a long time ago. She had passed it onto Cassie’s mother and then she had passed it to the attic where it sat long and lonely for a quarter of a century. At least till it had found its way onto the kitchen table right now. Every time Cassie flipped a page, a cloud went up, a cough rattled her throat and the dust clung to wood of the table in tiny finger prints.

So she began by lighting the sage. A small bowl, the bundle of herbs and a match that burst and then died. Then that was complete. It filled the room with a rush of scent, earthy and natural, taking over the air and it wasn’t long before the dust was forgotten.

Looking at the tome was like reading a manual for building a chair or a recipe for pumpkin cookies. All that needed to be done, now that she could see and breathe, was follow the steps.

Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

The pot of boiling water on the stove was starting to salivate, the water sputtering out in rabid little pops. Lifting the lid she tossed in a sprig of rosemary, then another. The water simmered down, satisfied for the moment. At least until Cassie threw in the frankincense and myrrh. Together the words ordered, so as to help the reach of her little cooking stint. A dash of salt for safety, a bunch of roses for attraction, and then the clove to keep the whole thing tightlipped from the world. Or at least her mother.

Rubbing her hands together Cassie stirred the contents and a gray smoke cloaked the room mingling with the sage burning on the counter.

Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

Now only a few bits left to add, then the incantation.

Bubble bubble
toil and trouble

dusky air,
lock of hair

leaves of rose,
two blue bows

a ghost’s kiss,
a snake’s hiss
the pretty things
you shouldn’t miss.

On this eve
meet my need.


Help to find
a steady mind

to guide me through
this witch’s brew

To see the past
understand at last
the hidden truth
my question asked

and granted answer
to become advancer

and much more clear
in the way of seer
. “

The candles went out like a sigh. All was quiet. Even the night outside was still… all except for her heart which stuttered for a beat, then two. What did she do? Had it worked?

Cassie didn’t feel any wiser. Or, any less confused. Maybe her suspicion had been wrong and Grandmother hadn’t been a witch at all…

A purple spark jumped from her fingers lighting the room in a flash, then another. Cassie held up her hands and stared. Again, her hands sparked, brighter this time, because she was aware. It danced like a little beam of static across her palms, and then back.

“Cassie…” called her mother from upstairs. “how you doing Sweetie?”

“Magical Mom.” she smirked. “Just magical.”

A pause, then “Are you being sarcastic?”

Cassie shook her head and called out, “No!” Then quietly to herself, “Not this time.” She clenched her fists but the purple flickers remained.

Bubble bubble toil and trouble…

“Ghost Story”

I saw two boys standing,
in the picture,
on the broken stair.
One with a frown,
and the other,
without a care.

The black haired one,
looking very serious
and quite proud,
held a book in his hand
his shoulders pitched forward
as if he had just bowed.

The lad with the smirk
and penny copper hair
all tousled about his face,
had his eyes far off
and looking away
as he stared into space.

It was taken
twenty three years ago
my mother told me.
When the world
was summer and
she and they played near the sea.


On Roan Island
where they lived,
there was a tale.
You see, the entrance
must be given one soul
to go beyond the veil.

My mother said
the boy made of copper,
brash and not coy,
had a timeless laugh
always heard at the wrong time
that sounded with no joy.

The dark haired one,
was forged of iron
and shadow smart.
His cracks were always witty
but they didn’t come
from his heart.

There was a game
they played
those nights by the sea.
“Something more
must be waiting
for our trio of three.”

One long summer,
when the ocean was storming
and the moon was bright,
one of them
disappeared
into the night.

He vanished,
like a light
in the dark.
The light of soul,
gone,
out like a spark.

“Never saw him again.”
My mother sighed,
her words slow.
“Other things I see now
ever since that night.”
and her voice was so low.

“What? What are you seeing
that I can’t?”
I asked shrewdly.
The picture crinkled
in my hand
the boys wrinkling crudely.

My mother stared straight
her eyes startled and wide
and looking right through me.
“I watch the dead now, sweetie,
for years they’ve come and go
creaking floors and spilling tea

they’ll never leave me alone.
By the sea we played
that stupid game.
Never the one soul
I wanted to see
but do I call his name. “

“Who?” I asked.
“Is it that you want to meet?”
She took the photo in hand
and looked down forlornly.
There was salt in her eyes,
and in her hair fell sand.

“One day the game
would catch up
I always knew.
The time to collect
the sin I owe,
proud and true.”

She pointed down
and I stared, then she said
only to me.
“Until now I never saw him
but now in this room
there are three.”

Living Life # 15 “Oblivion”

(a collection of independent vignettes)

It was just like a drum that was picking up the tempo. My heart, that was.

“Can you see him?”

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. A rising crescendo I couldn’t get a handle on. “I can’t see anything. It’s too dark.” The most I could make out was an outline. The slope of the stairs with the creaking last step, the lamp with the twisted metal where I had scraped my shoulder, and the barricade of wood nailed to the door. There were only traces of light trying to find a way in through the cracks in the boarded up windows. It had to be nearly dawn by now.

“Not for long.” Dmitri leaned back against the surface of the overturned dining room table, brushing his shoulder against my own. The contact pushed my already frayed nerves more on to the edge, making me wince. He didn’t seem to notice, as he continued “We have to hold out.”

That was the goal… but the longer the music played in the background, the harder it was to control my breathing. That drum in my chest and the phonograph were marching a perfect beat to the classical music that hadn’t stopped playing the entire time. In an empty mansion, with no one around for miles, I guess even monsters needed something to fill the silence that too much solitude brought on.

I almost felt bad, for a second. The smell of blood was too prevalent for the feeling to last any longer. It was dripping down my arm, faster than I could stop it and Dmitri was no better off. The monster had stabbed its nails into his side.

“He’s going to find us again.”

Dmitri grunted, guttural and low, and in hindsight it might even have been a laugh. “Beyond all doubt.” Between the smell of blood and the creaking last step it was a matter of moments.

The music was getting louder by the second and I knew that it was getting closer. It seemed to follow wherever it went. In the library it had been overwhelming, like trying to fight with an entire orchestra bowing in your ear. Not ideal circumstances for a hunt.

Behind the fallen table, I stood up. The hiding spot would not hold forever. Nothing could. Not even immortals were entirely safe. Dmitri looked up, but he didn’t say anything. I sidestepped carefully over his long legs but he caught me quick, with startling strength, and squeezed my ankle. Then just let me go… as quickly as the gesture had come. I nodded, but in the dark who knew if he saw.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. BANG.

Exposed and hesitant, I stepped into the center of the foyer. The strings were getting louder from upstairs so there was only so much time. Dodging any pointed furniture and watching for any debris on the tile floor I edged my way closer to the window. It was just planks of wood covering the light. All I had to do was rip one away. That would be enough.

Anchoring my fingers around the edge of the board, I pulled.

And it didn’t budge.

“You are not strong enough for that, Love.” My heart stilled. At the top of the stair, his shape was clear. Skinny like a scarecrow and his silhouette edged like barbed wire, a shadow moved taking one leisurely step after another easing his descent down. Splinters hooked into my fingers the harder I struggled and the music, despite my rush, became deceptively slow. Mellow even. Nice, soothing…

His hand was at my shoulder in barely any time at all. With almost no effort, he turned me around. In that little glint of light his fangs seemed almost beautiful. But then again all vampires were beautiful. And humans couldn’t help but be entranced by pretty things. But the wound on my shoulder put me in no mood for pretty.

Just revenge.

At the opposite end of the room, Dmitri ripped off a board from a different window and the sun came streaming in. The music hitched as the vampire hissed and with sudden, brutal clarity the world slowed into focus again. I stabbed the monster through the heart.

Then the music finally stopped.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

There was sunlight streaming in. Groggily, I opened my eyes to the window.

Bang. Bang. Bang-

With a thump my alarm abruptly went silent. I placed my phone back on the end table and sat up slowly. It was morning… one day over and another beginning. I threw the covers off of me, and then cringed.

“My shoulder…” I massaged it, squeezing the muscle to relieve some of the tension but not even that made all the pain go away. Rolling my neck, I blinked still not quite awake. “Must have slept funny… what was I dreaming…?”

But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember any of it at all.

Living Life #14 “Cicada”

(a collection of independent vignettes)

The forest was alive.

I could tell from the ground. Solid and unyielding, it was the only thing keeping me standing. Like two lead pencils, I felt like my legs were inching instead of walking. Each heavy step I took seemed to echo and reverberate back to the core of the Earth. The dirt was marking my path, I only hoped they weren’t paying too much attention.

I could tell from the roots. Thick and strong, worn with time but all the more wise for it. Nearly tripping over one, I braced myself against the tree and took a breath. Keeping my head down, my eyes drank in the sight. Wrinkles, like memories, etched into their bark as deep as trenches, hiding secrets that were waiting for someone to come and figure them out. They looked like hands reaching down to grab that which I didn’t know. But something worth while. I wanted to stay here, I wanted to figure out their truth. They were the reason I had come at all.

But I had been rash, and overlooked something. Something important.

I could tell from the air. It was breathing. The wind inhaling with slow, gentle breezes letting the leaves, as green and vibrant as life, take the exhale. I was alone. That was the lie they were telling me. And the worst part was I wanted to believe them. But that would make us both liars.

And it would make only me the naive one. It was a word my mother had called me too many times. In hindsight, I guessed she was right. About that, and something else.

Don’t go into the forest.

I smiled, but there was no happiness in it. Everything was quiet. And then all of a sudden, everything went loud. They found me.

Three shadows had come up behind me. In all of my struggle to get away from them I didn’t have much energy left. I had been running for five hours straight. Any normal human being, especially a girl who looked more like a flower than a tree, shouldn’t stand a chance against the watchers of the forest. The hulking ones I had thought only existed in legend.

In the hard way I guessed I had learned of one of the forests secrets. But the revelation was more bitter than sweet.

At least now there were only three human sized ones left. The first of the five had drowned when I ran behind the waterfall. The second had gotten impaled on that sharp, low lying branch a mile back. Black carapaces that upon closer inspection looked like armor instead flesh, spread knife tipped wings blocking the way I had come, and beady black eyes that never changed focus. My mother was right the deeper you travel, the scarier the forest becomes. These insects looked like they had come straight from the Jurassic period. No wonder she had kept me inside for all those years.

On the other side of these bugs there was me and, locked into my grip, my small hunting knife.

“Fine. If that’s how you want to do it.”

The forest was alive. And right now, so was I.

That was the way it was going to stay.